Today I have prepared for Jan and Robert an interesting itinerary which combines wetland birds, with butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. The last weeks has been very warm for March (max, temperature of 31ºC!) and butterflies are already very active. In addition, we are at the peak of the Mediterranean orchids so I expect to see a good number and variety of them.
After picking Jan and Robert up in Jávea we set off to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are being drying out and the number of birds is amazing. There are thousands of Little and Cattle Egret, White Wagtails, Pipits, Gulls, etc. Very soon we find 19 Common Cranes feeding in a field and Pau spots a couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Bluethroat popping out from the reeds. As we drive around, we find a stunning male Hen Harrier. It is probably the same bird seen last week by Pau. Other common birds seen include Hoopoe, Serins and Tree Sparrows.
In the North part of the park, we spot 2 Booted Eagles, several Marsh Harrier and 5 Common Buzzard migrating above the Montanyeta verda. Later, we find over 100 Audouin’s Gulls, joined by few Mediterranean Gulls feeding on the invasive american crayfish in a paddy field.
After a rewarding coffee stop in Pego, we continue driving to the near valleys to look for butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. In our fist stop, Pau show us 3 spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) and a couple Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). Our next stop is on the shade of a stone oak to have lunch. Soon we have to stand up to see a nice Firecrest and a stunning Moroccan orange tip butterfly. Once we finish and pack up the picnic table and chairs back in the boot, we drive few km more. A short walk reveals few tens of Early purple orchids (Orchis olbiensis). We find from white ones to magenta, a nice variety of colours!
Later we drive to an area near Vall d’Ebo where Pau has found previously orchids and his favourite butterfly, the Spanish festoon. There, we see lots of spikes and basal rosettes of two species: Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) and the endemic Ophrys dianica. Regarding butterflies, we have superb views of Spanish festoon, Bath white and Provence Hairstreak among others. Along the road, we find a Cirl Bunting.
Finally, on the way back to Jávea we make a quick stop to add some cracking orchids: Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax). Furthermore, we add two hybrids Ophrys x castroviejoi (O. scolopax x O. speculum) and Ophrys x pielteri (O. scolopax x O. tenthredinifera).
I am meeting Dieter and Fiona in El Rocío. Our start of the birding trip Donana is along the promenade which overlooks the Marshes of El Rocío. The marshes are packed with birds after the abundant winter rain. Our first raptors on sight are Red Kites and Marsh Harriers. On the water there is a large number of Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos and wildfowl.
As we walk near the visitor centre, we get an amazing view of a Great spotted Cuckoo being chased by an angry Magpie. It is the first lifer for Dieter and Fiona. Once we get to La Rocina we see Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe and Crested Lark among other common birds. On the river bank we find a mixed group of Little Egrets and Night Herons, which allow us to compare the age of these crepuscular birds. On the way back we bump into a group of 20 Azure-winged Magpies.
Finally, we spend the last hours of the day in the South part of El Rocío. In a Tamarix tree we find a mixed flock of House and Tree Sparrows which are joined later by Common Waxbills. After this, we head back to the hotel to enjoy a fantastic dinner.
A wonderful sunny morning is the prelude of a spectacular birding day. Pau drives towards Villamanrique to our first stop to see a flock of Spanish Sparrows feeding along a track. In a nearby pool we find a Common Sandpiper. We spend some time taking pictures of horses grassing on the flooded meadow! What a beautiful view!
We continue our birding trip Donana towards La Dehesa making three stops to see some crackers: Purple swam-hen, Black-winged Kite and Black Stork. Once we get to the lake we start looking out for ducks. Soon we find one Drake and two female Ferruginous Ducks, Red crested Pochards and a stunning White-headed Duck. Good birds are added fast! Surprisingly, we get three Swifts flying over! Very likely to be Pallid Swifts but difficult to be completely sure by the speed and height they fly about. In the back paddy fields, Golden Plovers, Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits feed intensively.
It is getting late so we drive along the farmland stopping just 2 meters away from a Barn Owl, what a marvellous sight! As we drive, we witness numerous groups of Common Cranes already preparing for the migration and a beautiful male Dartford Warbler. Later, Pau pulls over in order to see a pair of far distant raptors approaching. They turn to be a sub-adult Golden Eagle and an odd pale looking Griffon Vulture. From the same spot, Pau scans the front marshes and finds a Caspian Tern.
After lunch and coffee, Dieter calls out as a Short-toed Eagle flies in front of us. An early one! Then, we move to other area hopping to add some new birds. We are lucky enough to find few of the small wintering population of Lesser Kestrel. Finally, on the way back to the hotel we see a nice flock of Calandra Larks and an Osprey flying with a fish on its talons. What a day!
Our final day is spent in Odiel marshes. In the surrounding of the visitor centre we get Dunlins, Redshanks, a Grey Plover, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones. We enter the hide and Pau points out a gorgeous Bluethroat which sadly hides very fast. Later, we continue driving towards the end of the road until we see on the right side of the bridge three Black-necked Grebes. Few minutes later we made another stop to compare two side by side Curlew and Whimbrel.
We park near the gate and take a stroll along the beach. On the other side there are two Razorbills and three Gannets. On the sand, large parties of Lesser black backed and Yellow Legged rest. Finally, we drive back to the visitor centre for having lunch and have a bit of shelter from the wind. On the way, we make two stops to see Ospreys, a Booted Eagle, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a Sandwich Tern. After finishing lunch, a noisy Caspian Tern greets us and we set off towards Seville.
Thanks to Fiona and Dieter for being great companions and for having such an interest about Spanish culture and wildlife.
I have known Vernon and Lynee for three years. They are a very nice couple who enjoy combining the facilities of Benidorm with some birding trips in Costa Blanca.
On Monday we set off to Las Salinas de Santa Pola. Our first stop was near the city, where we get our first waders feeding on the pans: Dunlins, Little Stints, Sandering, Little Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilts. On the water, there is a large group of Coots and both Grebes (Little and the gorgeous Black-necked). Then we continue to stop in the tower of Tamarit. There we get our first Slender-billed Gull (Pau’s logo!), a Redshank and a Spoonbill. Not far from there, along the national road we make our the last stop in the Salinas. It proves to be a good idea as we see 17 Spoonbills, 24 Wigeons, Sanwich Terns and other common birds.
After having a coffee in Catral, we continue our birding trip in Costa Blanca driving around the farmland, South of El Fondo, seeing 2 Booted Eagles (pale and dark morph). In addition, we see Iberian Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Crested and Skylark. Sadly, the hides are flooded so we move to the visitor centre. As we step off the car, a friendly Bluethroat shows up. While we have lunch we have great views of Red-knobbed Coots and a wide variety of waders, including a superb Jack Snipe.
Finally we drive northwards to make the last stop in El Clot de Galvany . Once we are there, we find the main path flooded but that is not a problem for visiting the two main hides. There, we get Purple swamp-hen, Grey Wagtail, a stunning male White-headed Duck and a good variety of wildfowl.
During our second trip, we change completely of habitat and head off to the snow-capped mountains of Alicante. We start in Monnegre making 4 short stops. In the first one, we get 2 wonderful males Darford Warblers and a pair of Choughs. On the second stops we find our first Black wheatear on the top of a boulder. As we drive between the orchards we pull over to watch a group of Woodlarcks, Thekla Lark, Sardenian Warbler, Spotless Starlings and a chirping Crested Tit. Later, we get to a recently established small Griffon Vulture colony. Pau found it about 3 years ago and since then has been keeping an eye on them. It seems that they are still fixing the nest, so no doubt the cold snap has delayed the breeding.
Our last stop is in Alcoi where we visit the main Griffon Vulture colony. As we start walking, a wonderful Blue Rock Thrush displays for us moving around the old factory. Along the path, Blackcaps, Serins and other common birds take advantage of the olives. Finally as we walk back to the car, a Goshawk flies right in front of us chasing some small birds! What an end for a Birding trip in Costa Blanca!
Please find a selection of our wildlife trip reports in Spain.
Picos de Europa
30 August – 6 September 2016 Spanish Carnivorous (Iberian Wolf, Wildcat and Brown Bear)
January 2017 El Fondo, Santa Pola, Monnegre and Alicante mountains
17-18 November 2016 Genet and Steppes of Albacete
22 May 2016 Great Bustard tour-Steppes of Albacete
29 April-1 May 2016 Málaga and Granada
19 April Costa Blanca 2016-Alicante
July Costa Blanca 2015-Alicante
30 November 2015-Alicante
22 December 2015-Valencia
10 September 2014-Valencia
Granada and Tarifa
13 days birding in Spain
Sierra de Guara
Every butterfly lover knows how fantastic are Picos de Europa mountains for butterflies. The easiness to reach high altitudes and the variety of flower-filled meadows, deciduous woodlands and deep limestone gorges makes Picos the perfect place for a wildlife trip focus on butterflies.
Usually we organize two trips for year, (please have a look to our tour calendar) one in late June focus on butterflies, orchids, birds and alpine flowers and a second trip in late August-beginning of September when we spend more time in search of carnivours (Wildcat, Iberian Wolf and Cantabrian Bear). Nevertheless, we spend one day looking for Alpine birds and in the midday break there is always time to take a stroll for butterflies. We plan to spend more time in Picos during summer, so please contact us for a day out or for any information you need.
We make a stop for lunch before reaching the impressive gorge of el Desfiladero de la Hermida. Then continue our journey to the hotel in Boca seeing on the way Black and Red Kites, White Storks, Kestrels and Common Buzzard. After check-in we have a nice walk behind the hotel where we found Provençal, Knapweed and Heath Fritillary, Chestnut and Pearly heath, Large and Small white and plants such as Linaria triornithophora. Regarding birds, Bonelli’s Warbler, Raven, Rock Sparrow and Red-rumped Swallow are spotted for all, and Large Psammodromus is seeing as we walk back trough the town.
Dinner and red wine is served at 20:00. While we eat with appetite, we chat about the itinerary we plan to do the following days.
Our first stop is in a pool where soon we find Broad bellied chaser, Western willow spreadwing, Common bluetail damselfly, Large red damselfly and Common bluet. We also find Natherjack tadpoles, lots of tiny Common toads and an Alpine newt. Regarding butterflies, there are good numbers of Yellow Clouded, Common Blue, Knapweed and a Pearl-bordered Fritillary found by Hilary. Cuckoo, Quails, Tree Pipits and Skylarks sing from the nearby fields.
We drive for 10 minutes to reach a picnic area where we have our lunch. On the sky we are marvelled by a a Honey buzzard displaying. After coffee and facilities we walk the path in Ventaniella finding Swallowtail, Brown Argus, a fast flying Brimstone, Wood white and Meadow brown. Later a beautiful Purple-edged copper shows up and Math decides to chase it. The story ends when with Math falling in a ditch! Nothing serious, just trousers covers by mud, no photo of him allowed though!
The weather is changing and stars to drizzle, so we decide to go back to the hotel.
The weather looks miserable, still drizzling and thick fog. Anyway, we can’t do anything, so we carry on with the plan. As we drive towards Fuente Dé we see a Woodchat Shrike and a female Red-backed Shrike 200 meters away. Once we get there, the rain stops but the fog remains. That is a pity as we are going to miss the breathtaking views from the cable car. While we wait for it to take us, we see an Egyptian vulture flying low opposite us and a big flock of Common Swifts.
The astonishing 800m vertical ascent was enjoyed by the group. Once we are up in the mountains, Alpine Choughs fly and pick leftovers from the path left by tourist and Alpine accentors sing as if we were in a sunny summer day! Jim spots the only butterfly of the day a Red Underwing Skipper and Pau finds a party of Snow finches passing fast to our side. Water Pipits sing as it ‘parachuted’ past. Gorgeous alpine plants such as Trumpet Gentians, Leafless-stemmed Globularia, Arenaria purpurascens and Erinus alpinus are seeing for everyone. Northern wheatear and Black Redstar sing from the crags.
Seeing that the weather is not going to improve, we return to the van after lunch and go for sightseeing to Potes.
The sky is clear and the forecast expect 28 ºC, so it seems is going to be a great day for butterflies!!
First we stop in a stream where we find a good variety of butterflies: the endemic Chapman’s ringlet is seeing very well for everyone as it drinks from a muddy pool. Pau finds a cracking Damon Turquoise in a thistle. Adoni’s blue, Orange tip, Green hairstreak, Black-veined White, Mazarine Blue and Grizzled Skippers are seen in few minutes, what a display! Hilary finds an strange insect that turns to be a Owl-flie (Ascalaphidae). In the same path we also find interesting flowers: Digitalis parviflora, the endemic Erygnium bourgatii, Heath Spotted and Early marsh Orchids. In addition, Garden warblers and Black caps keep singing all morning and Pau spots an Iberian wall lizard sunbathing on a bush.
A few km following the road is located the view point of Pandetrave where we have a quick stop to witness the massive massif Central right in front of us. A quick look through the scope reveals a pair of Chamois and Griffon vultures in one far high hillside. In the meadows behind us there are numerous Small heath and Knapweed Fritillary, and at least 2 males Rock buntings.
Our next stop is for having lunch in Caín. Then, we follow the path of the Río Cares seeing large numbers of Cleopatra, Small Cooper and Iberian Grizzled Skipper along the path. Large Wall Brown, Wall brown, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady and a pair of Queen of Spain Fritillary feed on the abundant flowers. On the way back to the minibuses John does very well finding a Dipper bouncing in the river. White and Grey wagtails are also seen.
Today I am ready at 6:30. Yesterday while we had dinner, I was told by a local farmer that a Wildcat was seeing in the next town. I am not very optimistic as July is not the best month for Wildcat, but anyway I am trying as Hilary loves this animals and she is happy to join me. We get to the spot at the break of the day, not much happen the first half and hour but then a stunning male Wildcat crosses the field heading to the forest! Fantastic, but a bit far to get a sharp picture in a poor light conditions, though. After that, we join the rest for breakfast and everyone notices that we are in high spirits.
The first stop is in San Glorio where soon Pau spots a chirping Citril finch. The Cattle has eaten most of flowers so the diversity of butterflies is lower than we expected. However, we locate good numbers of Purpled-edged and Stooty Cooper, Silver-washed Fritillary, Black-veined White, Brown Argus, Short-tailed Blue and other common species.
We continue towards Piedraluengas stopping in a local bar for lunch and facilities. In Piedrasluengas, we can see a flock of 5 Red-Billed Chough and butterflies such as Chapman’s ringlet, De Prunner’s ringlet, Heath Washed Fritillary, Small heath, Glanville Fritillary, Provençal Fritillary, Red admiral, Spotted Fritillary and Meadow Fritillary. A good variety to finish the day!
Today is going to be our last full day in Pico. Temperatures of 30ºC are expected, so we all agree to spend the evening chilling out in the bar and having a cold bath in the river, no for me!!. So, first stop in the morning is a river located near Riaño. Math is amazed by the abundant and variety of Marled butterflies: Marbled White, Spanish and Iberian Marbled Whites. Along the river we find an inm. Black-tailed Skimmer and few Common blue damselfly. Common Chiffchaff and Firecrest sing from the deciduous forest. Butterflies include Chapman’s ringlet, Adoni’s blue, Turquoise blue, Idas blue, Mallow Skipper and Chequered Skipper are relatively common in the beautiful meadows of daisy wheel.
Later, we have our lunch in the hotel terrace and spend the evening at our leisure.
Once we are down in the coast the weather worsened. We head for the Dunes of Liencres to spend few hours before taking the plane. There we find numerous Sea Spurge with what seems Spurge Hawkmoth caterpillars. A young Cuckoo flies from the forest, Linnets feed on seeds and Crested Lark move up and down. On the shore there were Lesser Black-backed and Yellow legged Gull.
Finally, we get to the airport and say goodbyes.
We hope that this report about butterflies in Picos de Europa will bring back memories of a rewarding and enjoyable trip in NW Spain.
Apart from the popular steppes of Extremadura or Villafáfila, there are other superb birding places unknown by most. For instance, the steppes of Albacete in East Spain offer a great opportunity to watch Great and Little Bustards. Futhermore, other specialities such as sandgrouses, larks and Rollers can be found in the steppes. Finally, the temporary pools are packed with Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Red Crested Pochars, White headed-ducks and many more.
I am spending three days with Hervé watching birds and looking for mammals (Genet). Today we are going to pick Linda and Mike from a camp site in Oliva and we are heading to the steppes of Albacete. After half and hour drive and a quick coffee we are seeing our first birds: Corn bunting, Rock sparrow, Hoopoe and Crested lark. Pau drives straight to the breeding ground of the elusive Little bustard. The wheat is high, so it is going to be a bit of a challenge. As we walk, a cracking Roller flies over us! Marsh harriers soar in the fields behind us and a solitary Great bustard remains in a green patch in the middle of ploughed field. Pau hears a Little bustard so we move along the track. Hervé spots a silhouette who turns to be a gorgeous male of Little Bustard, well done!
We drive up to visit different pools finding: Black-winged Stilts, Red-crested Pochards, Whiskered, Gull-billed, Black tern and other common birds. Linda particularly enjoys a pair of Black-necked Grebe. It’s 1:20 pm. and our bellies are asking for lunch. After having some tapas and coffee in Pétrola we visit the largest lagoon where the Greater Flamingos breed. There, we also add a Black kite, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and a superb Great Reed Warbler singing from the reeds. Birds are very close allowing nice views. Later we undo the way following tracks and we get a Little Owl, Calandra Larks, Great Bustards and a Northern Wheatear.
Finally, we stop in one last area to add a Lizard Orchid! Photos here.
I got the enquire from Sam to organize a wildlife tour Málaga for him and his family. They are very keen on orchids, wild flowers and general wildlife. So, after picking them from the airport we set off to Villanuva del Rosario where we have a nice walk seeing our first orchids: Yellow-bee orchid (Ophrys lutea) and the first group of Spanish Ibex. Just in the other side of the road, in a small pine forest we find a large group of Sawfly orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). The shade of the pines provides enough moisture to make them grow with great strength. We carry on along the track and find a Mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum) and Pau spots a flock of 8 Red-billed Chough. In the pines there are Bonelli’s Warbler, Willow Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Crested Tit chirping and moving around. Then, on the way to the picnic area, we find some Fan-flipped Orchid (Anacampis collina) and Early purple orchid (Androrchis mascula) which sadly were passed. While we have lunch, we enjoy good views of Melodious Warbler, Griffon Vultures and Rock Bunting.
We continue driving up hill seeing Spotless Starling, Iberian Magpie and a cracking Bonelli’s Eagle!!!. Wonderful!. Pau makes a last stop on the way dawn hill when he shows us a very interesting orchid; Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta). Ann is really happy to see this beautiful and rare orchid. After this, we drive for 45 minutes to our hotel in Huétor-Tajar.
During the morning we visit the farmland around Huétor Tajar adding some birds: Yellow Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Little Owl, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bee-eaters and Sardenian Warbler among other common birds. Before noon, we leave to the mountains of Loja where we take a stroll to see some interesting wildlife. We find soon a Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and other beautiful flowers such as Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recoderi), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum) and Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recoderi). Birds are also great, with Crag martins, 2 gorgeous Black wheatear, Stonchat, Woodchat Shrike and a stunning Golden Eagle soaring. What a stroll! Regarding butterflies, Moroccan orange tip, Speckled Wood and Adoni’s blue are also seeing. After having picnic, we continue driving and seeing some birds: Teckla Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Blue-Rock Thrush and Rock Thrush very well spotted by John.
Today we spend the morning in the lagoon of Fuente de Piedra. Pau takes us straight to a colony of Spanish Sparrows and then drives us around the farmland where we find Cattle Egrets, Linnets, Lesser Kestrels, Corn Buntings and a wonderful Montagu’s Harrier. We add some waterfowl and waders in the pools near the visitor centre: Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Black winged Stilt, Ringed and Little ringed Plover, Collared Pratincole and Curlew Sandpiper. It is a good think that the lagoon has water again, last January was completely dry. Pau shows us two smaller Flamingos among a flock of Greater Flamingos which turn out to be Lesser Flamingos. They are distant but there is a clear difference in colouration. We stop in different hides seeing Little Stilt, Dunlin, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Gadwall, Marsh Harriers and three more butterflies: Scarce Swallowtail, Swallowtail and Bath White. On the drive back to the town, Sam got a Roller perched on a wire and Pau spots a large raptor which turns to be a Short-toed Eagle . Excellent!
It is time the take them to Anteqera where they will spend some days with friends. Thanks again for such a great wildlife tour Málaga!!!
I got an enquire from Allan who was willing to see some of the wildlife in the area. Please, find following our Birding Costa Blanca trip report:
Our first stop is in the Salinas de Santa Pola where the previous days, a pair of Elegant Terns have been reported. The day is warm but very windy, good for breeding gulls and terns (they don’t venture to the sea) but no so good for passerines. Greater Flamingos, Audouin’s Gulls, a female Red Crested Pochard, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, Swifts, Avocets, Little Stints and other common birds are our first sightings. As we stroll back to the car, a Little bittern flies down to a ditch covered by reeds. Unfortunately, Allan and his wife miss it. Five minutes after getting out of the car in our second stop, a strange sound catches my attention. It is a Roseate Tern!!! a very unusual bird in the region. On Sunday was located for the first time but no one could find it again yesterday, so it is a nice surprise to relocate it. Great bird! In addition, there is Little and Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Turnstone, Kentish Plover and Slender-billed Gull.
We walk down to the second hide to witness more than 600 Sandwitches terns and to try to located the pair of Elegant terns. All the birds take off twice and settled down again. Then, at the end of the island I find the 2 Elegant Terns, what a bill! In the same island we find Collared Pratincole, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank. The time is passing fast with so many birds. We are getting hungry and stroll back to car park to have our picnics.
We drive to el Fondo, stopping first for a coffee. We get in the first hide, Purple Swamp hen with two chicks, a Red-knobbed Coot nesting, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron and Whiskered Terns. Then we go to add more “lifers”. The sky is covered by Common Swifts and among them, we can spot 3 Pallid Swifts!. In the next hide, we get Purple Heron, Black Tern and Marble Teals. Allan is having a great time photographing so many new birds!. We carry on and have a look to a promising pool. There we get Gull-billed Terns, Mediterranean Gulls, a Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Little and Ringed Plover and lots of other waders.
I have one last stop for White-headed Duck and Black-necked Grebe but they feel tired so we leave it for the next time.
All in all, a very good day despite the wind. Two local rarities the same day!
Have a good Birding Costa Blanca day!
This year I have been invited by the Valencian Government to the Extremadura birdfair (FIO 2016) to promote wildlife tourism in my region “Valencia and Alicante”. Once the fair finished on Sunday 13th, I drove to Madrid to pick up Beatrice, Tom, Matthew and Susan from Barajas’ airport.
We make a comfort stop along the motorway to grab some lunch. There, we get our first views of Black and Red Kites, Common Buzzard, Barn Swallows, White Storks and Cattle Egret. Following, we stop at the wetlands of Arrocampo where we get a pair of Purple swamp-hens with a youngster, Zitting Cisticola, two Spoonbills, Little Egret and a Great White Heron. From the reed beds we can hear Savi’s Warbler and a Little Bittern fly fast.
In the nearby fields, Lesser Kestrels hover and Pau finds a Purple Heron hiding in the reeds. Later, we move to the other part of the reserve and get Iberian Grey Shrike perch on a pylon. Griffon vultures soar close to us. Meanwhile, Susan finds a Scarce Swalltail, Small Cooper and Red admiral butterflies.
Our next stop is just minutes away from Arrocampo. It is a new orchid reserve and what a place! The ground is covered by Naked man orchids and Champagne orchids, Pau finds three gorgeous Giant orchids (uncommon species in this area) followed by Woodcock orchids. Later, as we explore another plot of land, Beatrice finds Sawfly orchids with “resupination or flower inversion”. Six different species in just a small plot of land! With no more time we drive to our Hotel in Trujillo.
Today we head off to Monfragüe, one of the top raptor watching places in Europe. Our first stop is in Salto del Gitano, a huge cliff that overlooks the Tajo River. Griffon Vultures are all over the place as well as few Black Vultures. Crag martins are up and down and Cormorants fish down in the river. Pau hears a Rock Bunting that is located later by Matthew. We spot a Black Stork carrying some nest material and a Blue Rock Thrush sings from a rock on the cliff.We drive few kilometres and before reaching the next stop a Red deer crosses the road in front of us. We stop at the River Tajo where we see hundreds of House Martin making their nests. Among there, Pau spots a Red-rumped Swallow and a far distant Alpine Swift. During a short walk, we find a Hawfinch and a Sardinian Warbler.
We stop at Villareal de San Carlos to use facilities and have a coffee. Pau also arranges dinner for that evening as we will try to locate the Eagle Owl at dusk. On the sky, a different silhouette catches our eye; it is a Short-toed Eagle! On the nearby fields, Linnets, Serin and Corn Bunting feed on seeds. We carry on along the river until next stop where we have lunch. This is a good spot for Bonelli’s Eagle so we have lunch there. Pau gets an Egyptian Vulture being chased by a smaller raptor that turns out to be an inm. Bonelli’s Eagle, suddenly an adult Bonelli’s and two more Egyptian Vultures turn out from nowhere!!! Great stuff!
We drop down along the river to Portilla del Tietar. There, among the bushes an early Subalpine Warbler is found by Pau and seeing by everyone despite being playing hide and seek. A pair of Raven nests in the cliffs and a Nuthatch climbs up in a near oak tree. We walk back along the road waiting to see the “Queen” and not only we get views of Spanish Imperial Eagle but also a scarce bird in the area: a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Superb!
We go to Villareal de San Carlos to have dinner and wait until gets dark to try to spot the Eagle Owl. There is a rumour that the pair of Portilla del Tietar has moved to another area so we try another spot. We hear the bird but we are unable to see it. Later, we visit a small poll where we get nice views of Stripeless Tree Frog. On the way back to the hotel, a Wild boar runs in front of the car and several Common Toads are avoided on the road.
Once the breakfast is completed we stop in Trujillo to see the Lesser Kestrel colony. Then we move to Los Llanos seeing large numbers of Spanish Sparrows and Red-rumped Swallows nesting. Corn Bunting, Calandra Lark and Crested Lark are everywhere. As we drive, two big raptors get closer and closer, they are Spanish Imperial Eagles! Very quickly, we get off the car and enjoy for few minutes cracking views of these superb birds.
In the middle of a field there are 5 vultures resting on the ground (3 Griffon and 2 Black). In the opposite field, a Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier fly towards us. Besides, Red and Black Kites are all over the place and a Thekla Lark is spotted by Susan. We stop for a picnic in Magasca and get some common birds, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and Common Chiffchaff. It’s getting hot and reptiles are active as well as Large White butterflies. Pau finds a Large Psammodromus and a Spanish Terrapin sunbathing. There are also Iberian Water frogs croaking.
Our next stop is in Belen where we get a beautiful Great Spotted Cuckoo flying in front of the car. That is a good start! In a nearby field there are a group of 10 Great Bustards! Not far from them, there is a flock of 25 Golden Plovers. A pair of Egyptian Vultures and a pale morph Booted Eagle are also seen.
Today, we have dinner in the old town of Trujillo where we locate a Scoops Owl and hear a Little Owl.
Our first stop is in a “dehesa” close to Sierra Brava. Sadly, the first thing we find in the track is a death Ladder Snake. Lots of Hoopoes are feeding on the grass and on the wire we find a Woodchat Shrike. On the water, there are several gulls (Black-headed and Lesser Black backed) and 2 Greater Flamingos. Through the scope we can locate Pintails and Wigeons.
We take a diversion to look for some steppes birds, the road is quite busy so we press on and take a track where we find a solitary Great Bustard and a Stone Curlew. In a bush inside the road ditch, Pau finds a male Dartford Warbler. As we drive back to the main road a flock of 20 Great Bustards fly over us. What a moment for Susan, her favourite bird!
Our next stop is to re-fuel the car and have some coffee. Pau spots a flock of Common Swifts feeding in a channel that goes around the town. At least 2 of them are Pallid Swifts! Then, we move to the paddy fields which are quite dry, but along the edges we find a group of Red avadavats. There are Common and Green Sandpiper, Black-whinged Stilts and Yellow Wagtail in a small pool. On the grass there is a small party of Spotless Starlings.
A little further down, Tom sees a flock of birds landing. We pull over the car and get good views of Black-bellied Sandgrouses. Good! We follow the track and in another paddy field there is a Crane with two Storks! Hopefully the Crane can make its trip back north!
We get some information about a new reserve development, so we head off to get some more staff. There we find a pair of Egyptian Goose with two youngsters, a Night Heron, Greenshank, Showelers, Gadwalls and Little-ringed Plovers. As we turn around we get some close views of Iberian hare.
Today, is our last day in Extremadura so we decide to stop on Arrocampo for one last target; Black-winged Kite. We are lucky to find it in a pylon before reaching the reserve! Once we get in the reserve we see a Reed Warbler in the reeds and Crested Larks displaying. Tom finds our last bird, a solitary Garganey mixed in a flock of Gadwalls.
It is always a difficult thing to choose the highlight of the trip, but here we go.
Beatrice: The “Queen”. The pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles flying so close. Superb views! Flowery meadows.
Tom: Cracking views of Bonelli’s Eagle chasing/playing with the Egyptian Vultures.
Matthew: Spotted Cuckoo and Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Susan: The big flock of Great Bustards and the Spotless Tree Frog.
Pau would like to thank you all and look forward to sharing further adventures in the future. He also hopes you find this Extremadura Wildlife trip report useful.
Mike, Ron, Lisa and Sandra arrive on time from London Stansted airport. As the weather is sunny with a beautiful blue sky, we decide to grab some lunch and have it in el Playon de Bayas, one of the most beautiful coastal reaches of Asturias. There we see our first birds, Shag, Yellow-legged Gull, Grey Heron and a Peregrin Falcon. After lunch, we go for a stroll seeing Northern Wheatear, Stonechat and Serins.
Around 2:00 p.m, we set off to the Natural Park of Somiedo. After check-in in our hotel in Pola de Somiedo we drive to our first brown bear stakeout. Pau is informed that a mother bear and her cub have been reported the previous evening in la Peral, so we go straight there. The weather is fantastic so we have to make use of it and try to locate the bears. Around 5:00 p.m. Pau says “I got them”. Both, mother and the cub are walking peacefully in a rocky slope, about 1,5 km from where we are. Fantastic! The 5 of us get wonderful views of the bears. A gaggle of vans stop to check what we were seeing. On the sky, Common Buzzards and Griffon Vultures soar in the crests.
After this good start, we drive back to the hotel to have an early dinner. The party has got up early in the morning and they deserve a rest.
We check out la Peral first thing in the morning but the clouds have showed up and it is impossible to see anything in the peaks. We move down the valley to La Melva for a walk. There we find Coal, Crested and Great Tit and an approachable Firecrest. Some butterflies include Scarce and Swallowtail, Cardinal and whites. Mike spots a Southern Chamois in the hillside right in front of us. Later, once we are back to the car, Pau sets the scope and finds 6 more Southern Chamois. Around mid afternoon the sky darks and rains heavily. Time to go back to the hotel. On the way, we find an almost tame Red Fox who has been in the area for some time.
After breakfast we set off to el Valle del Lago for a nice walk in a glacial valley. Rock Bunting and Yellowhammer are perched on the scrubs and Raven, Red Kites and Red-billed Chough fly above us. Later, once the sky clears we move to El Llamardal where we start our second stakeout. Pau finds a Roe deer grazing in a near field and Lisa 2 Honey Buzzards. While we have picnic, Pau jumps and gets its scope, a Wildcat hunting voles in a nearby field!! Superb! We enjoy the cat for 10 minutes before it hides in the bushes. Then, we walk through a local path searching the hills for more wildlife: Red-backed Shrike, Subalpine Warbler, Bullfinch, Iberian Chiffchaff and Water Pipit are seen.
Today is our full last day and Pau wants to try another area for bears. We head close to la Rebollada. Soon after we get there, a huge male bear is seen for few minutes in an orchard feeding on rotten apples and vegetables. What a start! We walk a bit to try to relocate it and we found some colleagues from the FOP (Brown Bear Foundation), apparently the bear has been in the area for few days. We stay in the area until lunch time, hoping to see this wonderful mammal again. While we have lunch we see some birds such as: Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and common finches.
After lunch we drive to La Peral for our last stakeout. The afternoon is quiet, just the chat of various dozens of people congregate in the same area. When we were thinking to go back to the hotel, someone says “Gato montés”, a Wildcat has been spotted in the fields below. The feline walks slowly along the edge and soon disappears. The weather has been good and that has helped us to get great views of our two main targets.
We depart this stunningly beautiful part of Spain seeing Black Kites and two dippers in the river Somiedo on the way to the airport. Mike, Ron, Lisa and Sandra are over the moon (as well as me), not only for all the wildlife we have seen but also for the beauty of the mountains.